Fear can be a powerful influence, and marketers know it. The fear appeal in marketing is simply a strategy that is intended to scare the audience by describing a threat to them and motivating them to purchase a product or contribute to the cause. The fear appeal evokes people to feel that they are taking a risk if they don’t buy what you’re offering. The idea is that you want to make them feel like there may be undesirable consequences as a result.

Fear appeal ads tend to work better with goals that are easy to achieve. Researchers have suggested that fear-based advertising is most effective when it meets the following criteria:

  • The ad evokes fear or concern
  • It offers specific ways for overcoming the fear
  • The recommended method for overcoming the fear is easy to achieve.

For example, anti-smoking ads may be very scary and may even offer a clear way to overcome the fear; however, it can be challenging for people to stop smoking. Therefore, the recommended method for overcoming the concern is more difficult to achieve.

However, an ad convincing people to buy anti-virus software may convince more people, as they are constantly using the web, and are generally afraid of online theft, viruses, and security. The recommended method for overcoming the fear is easy to achieve by simply buying the anti-virus software.

When Should You Use the Fear Appeal?

The fear appeal in ads is increasing in popularity and it could be used for a variety of purposes. Fear appeal marketing is also most effective when they come from a trusted source. However, there are usually some ethical considerations when appealing to people’s fears. It’s not always in the best interest of a business to make their consumers afraid of something that has little or no risk at all.

How Do I Apply the Fear Appeal in Advertising?

When creating ads and visual communications focused on persuading audiences through the Fear Appeal, use images and phrasing explicitly designed to evoke fear or concern. You might think to the famous no-smoking ads where people had developed severe deforming illnesses from smoking. The same has been done with drinking-and-driving campaigns and similar concepts.

Memorable Ads

Fear appraisal ads may be more effective if they appeal to consumer’s pre-existing beliefs about a fear. The use of strong images can also make fear appraisal ads more memorable. Here are a few examples of how some companies integrated the fear appeal in their advertising.

PSA: Device Free Dinner

Burger King: Bullying Jr.

Royal Jordanian Airline: Fear of Flying